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Governor Veto Flushes Republicans’ Election Wishlist

November 2, 2021

The Governor vetoed a trio of Republican election enforcement bills, scratching off bills that eliminate the affidavit-to-vote option for electors without an ID and banning third-party funding for election administration.

HB 5007 was designed to cross off the initial and renewal expenses of state IDs, but it was tie-barred to other legislation and was problematic to the Governor because it didn’t come with additional money for the Secretary of State.

The Senate bills would have banned the Secretary of State and other election officials from mailing out unsolicited absentee ballot applications. For those who don’t have an ID on Election Day, voters would have needed to fill out a provisional ballot that only would have been counted if the voter provided proof of ID to a local election official within six days after the election.

“SB 0303 and SB 0304 would disproportionately harm communities of color,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her veto letter. “Non-white voters were about five times more likely to lack access to ID on election day than white voters. Voting restrictions that produce such a racially disparate impact must never become law in this state.”

Sen. Tom Barrett(R-Charlotte), who sponsored SB 0303, described the veto as evidence of Whitmer’s “unwillingness to rise above partisan politics.”

In a press release, Barrett referenced the May 2021 poll published by the Detroit Regional Chamber, showing that 79.7% of statewide respondents supported having every voter present a government-issued ID to cast their ballot at the polls.

“I am disappointed, but not surprised,” Barrett said in the statement. “These bills were common sense solutions to vulnerabilities identified in the election process after more than 30 hours of hearings on the subject following the historic turnout of the 2020 election. These measures had support among Republican, Democrat and independent voters.”

While Whitmer stood her ground on rejecting this conservative election enforcement, she said she would be proud to sign bills authorizing electronic voting to active-duty service members and their military spouses, establishing a permanent absentee voter list and “allowing sufficient time for preprocessing of absentee ballots.”

“Imposing more ID requirements for in-person and absentee voting will make it harder on senior voters trying to participate in our democratic process and cast their ballots,” said Dick Long, president of the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans, in a statement celebrating the veto. “Many of our senior members view the right to vote as a sacred expression of freedom and duty regardless of our political party.”

State Director Aghogho Edevbie of All Voting is Local Michigan described SB 0303 and SB 0304 as “baseless and extremely harmful” and pandering efforts into “Trump Won” conspiracy rhetoric.

According to the ACLU of Michigan, more than 18,000 Michigan voters signed an affidavit to vote during the 2016 General Election. Half of those affidavits were issued from disproportionately Black-populated precincts.

Additionally, individuals residing in 100% Black precincts were 16 times more likely to use this voter option than those living in precincts with no Black residents.

The ACLU of Michigan — a vocal and consistent opponent to Senate Republicans’ stream of election reforms — also said roughly half of the November 2016 affidavit ballots originated from precincts with a median household income of less than $34,680.

“To be clear, there is no evidence that use of affidavit ballots is related to voter fraud. In fact, the Michigan Senate Oversight Committee recently concluded that the 2020 election produced no significant evidence of fraud,” the Governor said. “Yet this voting restriction would disenfranchise the more than 18,000 voters who relied on the affidavit ballot in recent elections.”

Sen. Curtis VanderWall(R-Ludington) sponsored SB 0304, creating the provisional ballots and allowing voters to verify their identity with a copy of their birth certificate or Social Security card, along with the likes of a current utility bill, paycheck or government check.

“The only thing suppressed by these bills was a legitimate vulnerability in our election system. Showing proper ID to vote is a commonsense solution supported by Republican, Democrat and independent voters across the state,” VanderWall said in a press release. “Unfortunately, this is how our governor continues to work; she chooses politics over the people of Michigan.”

Whitmer concluded a veto letter with a quote from civil rights activist John Lewis, which said “freedom is not a state; it is an act. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.”

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